A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Right now the podcast business is almost all about the ads. Are we on the cusp of a big change? Are subscription models going to change podcasting as we know it today?
Tuesday is the start of a big test. It’s the launch of Luminary, a podcasting startup that wants people to pay $7.99 a month for exclusive shows. In three words, it’s “Netflix for podcasts.” Bold-faced names like Trevor Noah, Lena Dunham, Leon Neyfakh, and Hannibal Buress are on board. So are lots of financiers. Luminary “has raised $100 million in venture capital over two rounds since the spring of 2018,” Digiday’s Max Willens wrote.
On Tuesday the company “will join Stitcher Premium as the only two large subscription services featuring podcasts, and it hopes to be a friend to everybody in the ecosystem.” For instance, both the free and paid versions of the app promise access to “hundreds of thousands of shows you already listen to and love.” The paid version adds access to “40+ Luminary Originals coming this year.” But there’s a problem…
Here’s the hard part
Today’s “Podcast Wars” headline was inspired by The Verge’s Ashley Carman. On Monday she reported that “the industry hasn’t accepted Luminary or its impending launch. When it rolls out to the public on iOS, Android, and the web, Luminary’s podcast app will be missing some of the industry’s biggest shows, including The New York Times’ The Daily and Gimlet Media shows like Reply All and Homecoming.” Spotify recently acquired Gimlet Media.
“By withholding their shows, the Times and Spotify are setting Luminary up to fail — or at least struggle to get off on the right foot with users,” Carman wrote. “It certainly seems like the first shot fired in the inevitable premium podcast war and could destabilize one of the first buzzy, well-funded entrants before it can make a dent in the industry. The decisions that happen now will reshape the way podcasts are distributed in the future.” Read on…
>> Consultant Bill Rosenblatt: “Unlike music, people have never expected to pay for podcasts…”
>> Probably not a coincidence: SiriusXM came out with a streaming-only plan on Monday…
Sri Lanka’s ban
Donie O’Sullivan emails: Sri Lanka’s social media ban — prompted by Sunday morning’s terrorist bombings — is heading into its third day, and the lack of outcry from internet freedom and free speech activists is telling. I reached out to Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to ask them if they had anything to say about it — they didn’t. Have we really reached a moment where a government being able to shut down the world’s most important social media platforms is better than having the platforms up and running after a terrorist attack, misinformation and all?
The platforms themselves haven’t had much to say either. Facebook put out a tame statement saying people rely on their services during emergencies. YouTube and Snap have had nothing to say. But on Monday evening the Internet Association, a trade group that represents all the major players, said in a statement, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy. Online platforms can be a critical resource for victims to reach out for help or let friends and family know they’re safe after a disaster. They can also play a crucial role in coordinating response and relief efforts. Government mandated blocking of online platforms is not the right solution and could do more harm than good.”
This is fundamentally a cost-benefit analysis. What’s the benefit of Facebook in a society, and what’s the cost? Are the platforms doing enough to reduce the costs (radicalization, propaganda, abuse, etc) while enhancing the benefits?
→ Worth a read from BuzzFeed’s Megha Rajagopalan: “Banning Social Media In The Wake Of The Sri Lanka Attacks Doesn’t Make Much Sense…”
→ Kara Swisher says “it pains me” to say “that my first instinct was to turn it all off. But it has become clear to me with every incident that the greatest experiment in human interaction in the history of the world continues to fail in ever more dangerous ways…”
→ The Verge’s Casey Newton: “If the current US government blocked all access to social networks after a terrorist attack, we would rail against the move as an authoritarian outrage. When other countries do it, we ought to be just as suspicious.”
Stopping the misinformation virus
“Don’t Be a Carrier” is the headline on Alan C. Miller’s new op-ed. Miller, the head of the News Literacy Project, says “we must understand — and take responsibility for — our roles in the 21st-century information ecosystem. Misinformation can’t spread virally unless we infect others with it.”
Miller touts his group’s Checkology program, which helps students become “more discerning and engaged consumers of credible news.” He says “we need to transform this mentality into a movement. We’ve seen a sea change in public attitudes around such behaviors as drunken driving, smoking and littering. It’s high time we make consuming and sharing misinformation a socially unacceptable behavior.” Provocative framing…
Twitter earnings come out before the bell… Snap earnings after the bell…
TIME is holding its first-ever TIME 100 summit in NYC ahead of its annual gala in the evening… Nancy Pelosi is speaking at the summit…
The president will appear at a photo-op with White House News Photographers Association photo contest winners…
Today’s Mueller report headlines
– CNN’s epic night of town halls is underway… Kamala Harris is speaking as I hit send on this… She made news by saying “I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment…”
– The headline in Chris Cillizza’s newsletter: “Nancy Pelosi pleads for patience…”
– One of Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb’s multiple stories on Monday: “House panel issues subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn.”
– And here’s another Raju/Herb headline: “Senate GOP says it’s time to move from Mueller.”
– Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Liz Turrell, “The Mueller report is over for me. Done.”
– In two cases — Mueller’s obstruction probe and the hush money scandal — “it now seems likely that Trump would have faced personal criminal indictment but for the fact that he is the president of the United States,” Mueller biographer Garrett Graff writes…
– John Oliver: “The news that the President ordered subordinates to do things that might constitute obstruction and then they just ignored him is both reassuring and also terrifying…”
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
– The Washington Post’s version of the Mueller report, from Scribner, is still No. 1 on Amazon… Skyhorse Publishing’s version is No. 3… (Amazon)
– Another battle is brewing: “White House tells official not to comply with Democratic subpoena over security clearances…” (CNN)
Kaitlan Collins’ question prompted the quote of the day
This was just a straight-up lie by the president on Monday. When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked — at a press avail during the annual Easter egg roll — whether he was worried some of his staff were shrugging off his demands, Trump said “nobody disobeys my orders.”
Of course, Collins asked the Q because the Mueller report “contained anecdote after anecdote of aides refusing to carry out some of Trump’s demands to short-circuit the special counsel’s investigation. The trend was so marked the report’s authors made note of it in their assessment…”
“Game of Thrones” comes to mind…
CNN analyst Sam Vinograd emails: “What the President said is untrue according to the Mueller report, Bob Woodward’s book, AND reporting that DHS officials were told by their superiors not to implement his orders. His statement sounds a lot like something the Mad King or Queen Cersei would say on ‘Game of Thrones,’ not what we would expect a democratic President to say.”
DNC’s new letter to the RNC
Donie O’Sullivan writes: DNC chair Tom Perez wrote an open letter to RNC chair Ronna McDaniel on Monday night. Perez asked Republicans to condemn the “weaponization of stolen private data in our electoral process.” He called Rudy Giuliani’s Sunday comment that there’s “nothing wrong” with taking info from Russians an “affront” to democracy.
He also said, “Under my leadership, the Democratic National Committee will not encourage the theft of private data, nor will we seek out or weaponize stolen private data for political gain.” Full story here…
What else does Hannity know?
Oliver Darcy emails: Ever since the Mueller report revealed that Sean Hannity knew about the Trump Tower meeting before it was made public via the NYT, I’ve been thinking: What other newsworthy pieces of information does Hannity know that he is sitting on? The Trump Tower meeting was arguably one of the most explosive and meaningful Russia-related scoops — and Hannity apparently had knowledge of it well before the public. In fact, according to the Mueller report, he even had knowledge of it before Reince Priebus, then the White House chief of staff. So just take a moment to think: what else is Hannity withholding from his audience, in service to the president? I’m betting, quite a lot…
>> WaPo’s Erik Wemple says Hannity has earned “his designation as the White House’s shadow chief of staff…”
Here’s the thing about Trump and Fox…
His occasional sniping at the news division is outweighed by his support for (and support from) the opinion side. He’s been promoting the network’s talk shows even more than usual since the Mueller report came out — taking solace in the spin.
Oliver Darcy emails with more: Trump tweeted Fox clip, after Fox clip, after Fox clip, after Fox clip, after Fox clip on Monday — and then he promoted Lou Dobbs’ show by saying they had just chatted by phone. In other words, it was just another day in the Trump White House…
Let’s hear more from Mueller
The criticism of MSNBC’s Mike Viqueira continued on Monday… With detractors saying that he shouldn’t have approached Robert Mueller and asked questions when Mueller was leaving church on Easter Sunday… But in a conversation with Poynter’s Al Tompkins. “Whether it is Easter Sunday or Wednesday outside an office building, if a newsmaker is in our sight, we ask them questions,” Viqueira said.
Still, Tompkins’ take is that “MSNBC did not have a justifiable reason to stake out and confront Mueller as he left church.” Here’s his column…
A disappointing “record”
“As of Tuesday, the Trump White House will set a record for the longest stretch without a briefing, 43 days. This breaks the previous record set in March (42 days), which broke the record set in January (41 days),” WaPo’s Paul Farhi reports in Tuesday’s paper…
>> Farhi’s story about Sarah Sanders also includes this classic pairing of paragraphs: “She has also become well known among reporters for not responding to emails or calls to her office seeking comment. Sanders did not reply to a request for comment for this story.”
→ This is quite a headline: “Sarah Sanders lies about reporter who called for her to be fired for lying”
→ On Sunday’s “Reliable,” I talked with April Ryan and Katie Rogers about what it means to have a W.H. press secretary with no credibility…
“Veep” imitates life with campaign collusion plot
Brian Lowry emails: I mentioned “Veep’s” fortuitous timing last night. Here’s a recap of the episode — in which a presidential campaign is aided through election manipulation by a foreign power — and showrunner David Mandel’s postmortem with THR, in which even he marveled at the timing. Mandel joked, “I asked them to release the Mueller report three weeks ago so we would get a little space. Attorney General William Barr felt that it would make Veep more relevant if it came out this week and I couldn’t argue with him. He’s a huge fan of the show. He’s always been very helpful to us, so we want to thank him.”
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
– After Mitt Romney said he’s “sickened” and “appalled” by what the Mueller report revealed about Trump, WaPo’s Philip Rucker said on MSNBC that “Romney is saying exactly what his Republican colleagues in the Senate believe but are afraid to say…” (Mediaite)
– Sam Stein interviewed the OTHER Bob Mueller, a newscaster at WKRN in Nashville, Tennessee, who’s had a strange couple of years… (Beast)
– Former Fox contributor Herman Cain’s name has been withdrawn from consideration for a seat on the Fed’s powerful board of governors… (CNN)
– Dave Weigel tweeted: “For any other president, pulling a Fed nominee after weeks of embarrassing coverage would be seen as a sign of weakness, but I bet it’s forgotten by the end of this twe… wait, what was I talking about?” Weigel has a point… The ABC and CBS nightly newscasts didn’t even mention Cain on Monday… (Twitter)
This year’s winners of the Hillman Prizes
The Sidney Hillman Foundation’s prizes “for journalism in service of the common good” will be announced on Tuesday and awarded on May 7… You’re seeing the list first:
⚬ Newspaper – The Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown and Emily Michot for “Perversion of Justice”
⚬ Magazine – ProPublica’s Hannah Dreier — in collaboration with four (!) partners — New York mag, Newsday, “This American Life,” and the New York Times Magazine – for “Trapped in Gangland”
⚬ Web – Reuters staffers Joshua Schneyer, Michael Pell, Andrea Januta, and Deborah Nelson for “Ambushed at Home”
⚬ Broadcast – NBC/MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley for “Torn Apart: Crisis at the Border”
⚬ Opinion & Analysis – The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer
⚬ Book – Anna Clark’s “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy”
The judges were Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jelani Cobb, Alix Freedman, Hendrik Hertzberg, Harold Meyerson and Katrina vanden Heuvel. “In a time when this country’s highest powers have taken it as their business to demean the work of journalists, it is particularly significant to have an evening when we honor those who have taken up the tools of journalism to challenge corrupt power wherever it may reside,” Coates said…